When Your Friends Need Therapy: How to Help Them Out

Do your friends need therapy? Have you ever tried to get one into therapy? I mean, other than using the old “You need therapy” and leaving it that.

Below are two pop culture examples of friends “encouraging” friends into therapy; in addition, one psychologist’s advice regarding this issue.

I. In this very brief clip from sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) firmly tells George (Jason Alexander) not just that he needs therapy—but, in so many words, that he needs more than anyone can usually get:

II. In the dramatic film Reign Over Me (2007) Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), a successful dentist who’s married with kids, isn’t as happy as he thinks he should be. Although he could use some therapy, he can’t seem to take that step.

By chance he runs into Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), an old school roommate whose wife and kids were killed on 9/11. It’s made super-evident that Charlie needs professional help—and badly. It becomes Alan’s mission to get him that.

When Alan does manage to get the resistant Charlie to see a shrink (Liv Tyler), Charlie can’t tolerate it. He won’t open up; he won’t even stay in her office. She advises that if he can’t talk to her, he should find someone else to tell about the tragedy that’s so messed him up.

So, he does; he unburdens himself to friend Alan. Not long afterward, he tries to commit “suicide by cop.” Oops—guess he really wasn’t ready to talk. Now he’s in even deeper trouble.

Meanwhile, there’s something happening within Alan. Carrie RickeyPhiladelphia Inquirer: “As he extends a hand to help Charlie, the last thing Alan expects is that this simple act of kindness will be the shock therapy he needs to jump-start his own dead emotional engine.”

The trailer can be viewed below:

III. In her recent post “Encouraging Family & Friends to Seek Psychotherapy“, Jill Stoddard lists some do’s and don’ts. Consult the article for further explanation of her points.

  • DO begin by emphasizing how much you care and how worried you are.
  • DO NOT confront them or shout at them regarding some of their behavior or choices, as this will only lead to the person feeling ashamed, cornered, and defensive.
  • DO get the advice of local professionals, and consult their research or pamphlets when considering how to express your concern. Local support groups, psychotherapy clinics, and community centers are almost always willing to help.
  • DO NOT take this approach for the wrong reasons…Make sure you have sorted out your own motives before attempting to talk to this person. If not, they will likely see through your attempt, and it may damage your relationship.
  • DO realize that this is not the least-confrontational course of action, and may impact your relationship if the individual does not take the suggestion well.
  • DO NOT be impatient. Even if your friend has a non-negative reaction to your suggestion, he or she may not reach out for help right away.
  • DO offer to help this person seek therapy, whether that means finding a doctor, booking an appointment, or just giving him or her a ride to an appointment.

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